Wednesday, November 2, 2011
ESTA ES SU CASA--NOVEMBER 2011
ESTA ES SU CASA--NOVEMBER 2011
As always, The Beacon shines its light on my Honduras:
ALL THINGS HAVE THEIR TIME
The October edition of the CASA came out just a couple weeks ago, so I could “cover” my time in St. Louis. This November edition offers the events, exhilarating and extreme, before and since.
September 15 is Independence Day in Honduras (and every other Central American country, when in 1821 the whole thing, then known as “Guatemala,” broke away from Mexico, which previously had broken away from Spain). There’s supposed to be a parade and other festivities, but every year the teachers union tries to strangle any celebration, first, because all the expenses for uniforms and fancy clothes only serve to enrich the 1% (Jews and Arabs, for you conspiracy theorists), and, second, because celebrating the “independence” of a beautiful country, yes, but one ruined by a servile, corrupt ruling class is pure hypocrisy. All true, but neither of these rants impresses the students who can’t wait for one day of glory. The “Cuadro de Honor” is especially exciting for the parents of the top students in each grade. And the kindergartners, as cute as cupcakes, get to hang with the big kids, as they join the drum corps, the pom-pons, the drill team, and the dancers in the grand event winding its way through town.
Of course, this takes lots of preparation, eating up gobs of class time (another objection from the more conscientious as the mandated 200 days of class dwindle, not to mention strikes and other stoppages. All the kids participate, and, in an ideal world, all of them would march. But as the teachers put the kids through their paces, they start a sorting process, the more adept kids taking the lead, with further breakdowns, group by group by group, till the last kids just walk along. That’s where Chemo ended up. I swore never to diminish him with criticism, but as I saw Dorita, Dorisell, and even little Anderson in the Cuadro de Honor, and Elvis, Jr., leading the band, I longed for some celebrity for Chemo. His teacher Juana Maria has treated him with great care and kindness, but she never singled him out--till now. She picked him and another “walker” to carry the big sign featuring the Founders. So he went from the back of the parade up to the front! I could barely conceal my pride, and I snapped enough pictures to jam my camera. I thanked Juana Maria over and over again; I was just so grateful. Chemo, of course, barely grasped the significance....
Then came my month in St. Louis, hammer and tongs.
Upon my return to Las Vegas, Chemo had a fistful of quizzes and tests that he had passed. And he had been on his best behavior. The fact is, he got much better parenting while I was gone, living with Dora and Elvis and their kids. And we were all excited by the birth of Alba’s baby. That’s the note I ended the October CASA with: “Life will have its say.”
But death whipped out its sword and cut one of the littlest and one of the oldest from our midst. We were eating supper over at Alba’s when Dora called, frantic and barely able to speak. “Miguel, where are you!” Little Yaciel, just 16 months old, son of Elvis’ sister Maria, had died. It hardly made sense; we’d all seen him earlier in the day, toddling along with his mommy. Some sudden attack and they were rushing him to the hospital in Yoro when he died on the way. They blamed it on “dengue,” a tropical version of a killer flu, but in retrospect it was probably a congenital condition that finally erupted. Reynieria, a neighbor, said the child was “morado” (purple) when they took him away. I thought, heart condition, and thanked God again for Chemo’s operation.
Maria and husband Ivan had actually gone by bus to Yoro with Yaciel, so they continued to the hospital, and by the time all was done that could be done, the last bus had left. So Elvin, a huge, solid guy, (not to be confused with Elvis, skinny and tall) drove his “ambulance” up there to bring them back. Meanwhile, we waited at the house. It was a horrible vigil, and I begged my sister Barb to text me the progress of the Cardinals World Series game. Fittingly enough, there was no progress; it was the night they were shut out; but the distraction was welcome nevertheless.
Just as the game ended in a 4-0 loss, the ambulance arrived, and so did the despair and screams and cries and floods of tears. Maria was a wreck and Ivan not much better. Their other son, Ivancito, 4, had stayed with Dora, in her lap, in fact. He could barely comprehend what had happened. According to Dora, the only thing he said was, “I can’t play with him anymore, because they have to take him up to the cemetery where they took Grandma Julia.” How ironic was it that this tragedy coincided with the six-month anniversary of Doña Julia’s death, Yaciel’s great-grandmother, and we had already started another novena.
Maria stayed mostly in her room during the wake, but when she came out and bathed Yaciel in her tears, and no one seemed to be planning anything, I borrowed a Bible and gleaned every passage in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus holds and blesses and defends “the little children” from their adult worriers.
The next day, after the funeral, I sought out Elvin to thank him for his mournful task. His eyes welled up in tears, as “tough” as he is. “It was a long ride.”
Another day, another departure. Doña Binda, 96, was gone. Her classic, handsome face, crowned in a wool of pure white hair, finally succumbed to the inevitable, a life 94-and-a-half years longer than Yaciel’s. In fact, I had already collected photos I had of Binda over the years, a folder that had transferred intact from my old to my new computer.
But that’s when I discovered that my HP printer wasn’t good enough anymore, no, no, no, not for the MacBook Pro! Not even after a download from HP to update it. So I went to Yoro, thinking it had to be a wild goose chase, to find a current, compatible printer in a technological backwater. I found one, the only one in town, I’m sure, an HP no less, but way fancier than I wanted, a printer-scanner-copier in one, with a price to match. But I bought it, figuring this was a lot cheaper than a two- or three-day trip to Tegucigalpa. When I connected it, it needed an update too, to raise it just one point. But it took so long to download, with my clunky dial-up Internet, well, let’s just say, it took all of Game 6 (the big one, with all the Cardinals’ comebacks, winning with David Freese’s walk-off homer in the 11th inning ) plus four more hours. At 2:00 in the morning (after that game, I could hardly sleep anyway!), I tried my first print job--the Honduras national anthem that Chemo will be tested on--and it worked! And I have to admit, I love the scanner, perfect for “capturing” Chepito’s drawings, and the copier feature, very convenient. (I gave the old printer to Elvis, along with extra ink cartridges I had bought in St. Louis.)
Then, just a week after Jaciel’s death, word came from Morazan that Ivan’s 11-year-old daughter by a previous relationship had died, the same way, the same suddenness, the same “dengue.” So a man with three children now has one, Ivancito, who is still way too...remote, waiting for his playmate.
Someone who would have been much better than I at telling these stories also bowed out last month, Fr. Dean Brackley, who volunteered back in 1989 to step into the fire--or crossfire--at the Jesuit university in San Salvador when 6 priests and 2 women were murdered one bloody night by a government-sponsored death squad. That was back when the U.S. was giving El Salvador a million dollars a day to suppress “dissent.” Teresa Jorgen took courses from him during a sabbatical; I only met him once, at a talk he gave at St. Louis University, but it was clear enough to leave a life-long impression. If I had not already decided on Honduras, I would have that night. And now, I somehow feel doubly called to a deeper commitment to the poor. If only!
I knew Dean was sick, but I thought he was recuperating. I did not know he had relapsed. Or maybe I did not want to know that he could leave us. The pancreatic cancer just did not quit. Here’s a link sent to me by dear friend Larry Mooney in St. Louis:
The highest profile murder in Honduras right now is the kidnaping and “execution” of the son of Julieta Castellanos, the president of the national University. She has governed fearlessly this notoriously contradictory institution, paralyzed until her rule by teacher strikes, student strikes, maintenance strikes, construction strikes, bus strikes, strike strikes just for the heck of it. So suspects abound, but the really wicked part is that the killers were dressed like police; in fact, they ARE police. Given her position, she could follow the case more closely than the average citizen, and is unraveling enough threads of corruption already to force the resignation of the head of the police and his staff, for covering up and even destroying evidence. Suddenly, President Pepe Lobo, who has been strolling through his term with a grin and a shoe shine, isn’t smiling. Clearly, the scandal is lapping at his feet. But this is more than bad grades; it’s bad dope. Maybe you spotted on the Drudge Report the article about Honduras, the drug tunnel for cocaine from Venezuela to the U.S.:
There’s enough poison to kill all our sons--and daughters.
To light a candle, I include the scan of Chepito’s version of one of Bill McNichols’ icons. Bill sent a blank line drawing, and Chepito colored it in, and provided the decorative details. Do you find it as stunning as I do?
Today, November 2, All Souls Day, we went in little groups throughout the day up to the cemetery to pay respects to our departed friends and family. The day concluded with a special Mass, Fr. Manuel gathering up the whole community in prayer. “This is a day for memories, to remember. Let me invite you to share.” And folks spoke from the heart. Some times that’s all you have; some times that’s all you need. These CASAs are my memories....
The song quoted above, based on Ecclesiastes, is by Fr. John Kavanaugh:
All things have their time,
And all things pass away;
But, for those who love,
Time is eternity.
Thank you for your time.